New statewide ad campaign aims to prevent stoned driving | SteamboatToday.com

New statewide ad campaign aims to prevent stoned driving

The new ad campaign from the Colorado Department of Transportation includes a combination of humorous television ads and more serious messages being distributed to dispensaries and rental car companies.

Impaired driving quick facts

• It is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana, and can result in a DUI similar to drunk driving. A DUI can result in costs of more than $10,000.

• Similar to the 0.08 blood-alcohol limit, it is illegal to drive with 5 nanograms of active THC in your whole blood and can be prosecuted for a DUI. However, law enforcement officers base arrests on observed impairment, not the level of THC.

• When combining substances, there is a greater degree of impairment. If a driver is under the influence of alcohol, their risk of a fatal crash is 13 times higher than the risk of a sober driver. If the driver is under the influence of both alcohol and marijuana, their risk increases to 24 times that of a sober driver (American Journal of Epidemiology).

• Using marijuana medically can also result in a DUI. If a substance has impaired your ability to operate a motor vehicle it is illegal for you to be driving, even if that substance is prescribed or legally acquired.

• If children are present in the vehicle, an impaired driver will also be charged with child abuse.

• It is illegal to have marijuana in the passenger area of a vehicle if it is in an open container, container with a broken seal, or if there is evidence marijuana has been consumed. It is also illegal to consume marijuana on any public roadway.

— Source: Colorado Department of Transportation

One of the earliest national ad campaigns to prevent drunk driving featured a bottle of whiskey and a gas pump in front of a scary skull and a bold message of “Don’t Mix ‘Em.”

The Colorado Department of Transportation’s new “Drive High, get a DUI” ad campaign to prevent stoned driving takes a drastically different approach.

One of three television ads that will start running this week features a man who is too high to realize he is trying to start a grill without propane.

The ad tells viewers that while grilling high now is legal, driving to get the propane isn’t.

"The people who are smoking (marijuana) do not respond to fear tactics or threats, they respond to social media and humor," local state highway commissioner Kathy Connell said Friday as she praised the new ad campaign.

The ads will target men ages 21 to 34, an age group the Colorado Department of Transportation claims has the highest number of DUIs.

With marijuana now legal for adult purchase and consumption in Colorado, CDOT and local law enforcement are embarking on new efforts to better prevent drug impaired driving and catch those who are doing it.

And CDOT is trying to battle a perception that could take time to change.

"Before beginning the campaign, we did extensive research about medical and recreational marijuana users’ perceptions of marijuana’s effects on driving," CDOT spokeswoman Amy Ford said in a news release about the ad campaign. "We heard repeatedly that people thought marijuana didn’t impact their driving ability, and some believed it actually made them a better driver."

Colorado State Patrol Sgt. Scott Elliott also said there are many people who don’t seem to think driving under the influence of marijuana is a problem.

He compared today’s efforts to stop stoned driving to the previous efforts that aimed at combating drunk driving in the 1960s and 1970s when it seemed to be more socially acceptable than it is today.

Elliott added that impaired driving, including with marijuana, remains a problem on area roadways.

Connell said the approach CDOT is taking to prevent impaired driving has the potential to be more effective than older campaigns.

She said there also is talk of better utilizing signs on roadways to remind motorists not to drive impaired.

"We are critically concerned with some of the lack of understanding of what marijuana does to your ability to respond quickly while driving," Connell said.

In Routt County, impaired driving, including driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, remains the second highest contributing factor in car crashes.

In 2012, CDOT statistics showed impairment contributed to just more than 40 percent of the 265 crashes that law enforcement agencies reported had a human contributing factor.

Inexperience was the most cited factor in the crashes.

In addition to the advertisements, CDOT will distribute educational materials to rental car companies and dispensaries that will inform tourists and marijuana users about marijuana driving laws in Colorado.